WASHINGTON -- Jon Stewart made good on a pledge Wednesday to lobby Congress alongside ailing 9/11 first responders, but he had a warning for them. As they trekked the halls of the Capitol, they were likely to face "some toxic levels of bullshit."
Stewart was hoping to spur Congress to renew the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It starts expiring next month, and lawmakers have yet to begin considering the new legislation that could make the aid permanent.
The former Daily Show host portrayed the impending lapse as shameful, and apologized on behalf of the country to the more than 100 responders gathered on the grass outside the Capitol.
"I'm embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for our country. I'm embarrassed for New York. I'm embarrassed that you, after serving so selflessly, with such heroism, have to come down here and convince people to do what's right for the illnesses and difficulties that you suffered because of your heroism and because of your selflessness," Stewart said.
"Nobody had to lobby you to rush to those towers on that day," he said. "I am sorry. and I apologize."
Some 151 House members and 37 senators backed the bill as of Wednesday morning. Advocates for responders were hoping to boost that number considerably by the end of the day. People can search here to find out if a lawmaker supports the new legislation or not.
Stewart and groups of responders expected to meet with dozens of lawmakers Wednesday in a day-long session of appeals.
Before setting off, Stewart joked that the people who sacrificed their health in the debris of the twin towers would need all their heroism to face politicians.
"Today, on the Hill, you will be exposed to possibly toxic levels of bullshit. And arrogance," Stewart said. "You're strong men and women, but these are conditions you may never have faced before. So buckle your seat belts, and let's get this done."
The comedian was careful not to point the finger at one party or the other. When asked who was to blame, Stewart quipped, "Whose lawn am I standing on?"
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.